April 18, 2024

Red blood cells made from IVF embryos: UK scientists

No clinical trials yet

British scientists claim to have turned
stem cells from spare IVF embryos into red blood cells in a project with the
goal of manufacturing synthetic blood on an industrial scale. It has been said
to be the first time in Britain that human embryonic stem cells have been used
to produce human red blood cells.

The £3m project is aimed at developing an
alternative source of O-negative blood, the universal blood type that can be used
by most people without fear of rejection.

The project has used over a hundred embryos
left over from IVF procedures to establish several hESC lines. One of the
lines, called RC-7, has been converted from embryonic cells into blood stem
cells and then into functioning red blood cells containing the oxygen-carrying
pigment haemoglobin.

The project is in its very early stages,
with the first clinical trials of synthetic blood made from ESCs planned to
occur within the next five years. The plan is to then scale the manufacturing
process to produce over two million pints per year using industrial

Professor Marc Turner, director of the
Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service in Edinburgh and leader of the
project, said synthetic blood produced on an industrial scale would eliminate
the problem of blood shortages and the transmission of infections between
donors and recipients.

Some fundamental issues remain to be
resolved. For example, scientists have to ensure that the cells are cultured
with laboratory reagents that have not come into contact with animal cells, because
these could contaminate the blood cells with animal diseases. The project is
also yet to gain regulatory approval. In addition the use of hESCs themselves
has been the subject of widespread bioethical debate. ~ Independent,
Aug 16

Jared Yee
stem cells